Blocked ribs, acute pain in the chest

Do you feel significant acute pain in your chest or a sharp pain shooting between your shoulder blades or under the shoulder blade? You can't take a deep breath because of the pain? Did you visit a doctor who excluded any heart and lung disorder, but you still feel pain in your chest? The cause can be blockage of one or more ribs.

The rib cage is composed of 12 pairs of ribs, 12 thoracic vertebrae and the sternum bone. The first 7 pairs of ribs are joined in back to the thoracic vertebrae and in the front to the sternum bone. Therefore the blockage manifested by a stabbing pain on the front side of the thorax is mainly connected to the first 7 pairs of “true ribs”.

Another 3 pairs of ribs, that means eighth, ninth and tenth rib, are called “false” ribs, they are connected only in the back to the thoracic vertebrae, and in the front they are connected to the upper ribs and sternum bone with cartilage. The last two pairs of ribs are called “floating” ribs, because they are connected only in the back, and they are significantly shorter compared to the rest of the ribs.


The main reason for the formation of the acute pain is the imbalance in the muscle tension (muscle imbalance) and long-term stiff posture in an undesirable position. It occurs often after a long ride in a car without taking breaks, during an incorrect long lasting sitting position by a computer or table, incorrect position during sleep, or when the chest is in an unnatural position, for example slouching, or rotated to either side. Blocked ribs occur also during sudden impacts or abrupt and uncoordinated lifting of various heavy object.

Blocked rib can be accompanied or preceded by blockage of one or more thoracic vertebrae, which is subsequently followed by muscle spasm (high fibre tension) in the surrounding muscles, which react to the blockage and keep it in an incorrect position.


The most common manifestation of blocked rib is a sharp pain in the front but also back side of the thorax, which increases when we breathe, usually when breathing in. If the pain occurs on the front side of the chest and more to the left, it can imitate pain attack specific for angina pectoris, heart attack and other heart diseases. It is therefore ideal to first exclude the organ disability by visiting your doctor.

Pain also occurs in the area under the shoulder blade or on the sides of the thorax. It can also spread in strips across the rib cage, in the direction of a specific rib from the front to the back or vice versa.


In treatment of acute blockage of the ribs we apply joint mobilization techniques on the blocked vertebrae and ribs, and manual relaxing techniques to relieve the increased muscle tension and muscle sheath, which are fixing the blockage. The pain can also move in muscle chains to a more distant areas of the trunk or nape of the neck. By treating the original area of the pain, we eliminate the problems in the more distant parts of the body. For a successful therapy of acute blockage we developed combination of physiotherapy with application of shockwave therapy, which brings instant relief from pain and stiffness. We adjusted this combination of service in order to help you as fast and effectively as possible. We call this service Physiotherapy All-Inclusive.


Mobilizing thechest Mobilization ribs

YTtrakce hrudni patere (1)YTMobilizace a manipulace hrudníku (2)

Hot towel rollHot towel applicationYTRelaxace horních vláken trepézu (1)


Instructions for exercise during pain of the thoracic spine and ribs

 FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: Clinical experience in physiotherapeutic field, FYZIOklinika

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